29 November 2010

Rampage



And You Thought You Couldn't Take It Anymore...

You won’t believe me, but it is true. This movie was made by the same schlock that made House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, In the Name of the King, Bloodrayne, and countless other pieces of garbage films based on video games. Yet, Rampage, shows that Uwe Boll knows how to craft a story, film it, and bring it to life.

Brendan Fletcher plays Bill Williamson, a twenty something living in his parents’ basement. They tell him that he needs to get out and go live on his own. He gets mad. Next, he goes to work, where his boss gets mad at him for working on his own van on his lunch. He gets mad. He then goes to a coffee shop where the barista can’t make his order properly. He gets mad. Finally, Bill meets up with this best friend, Evan at a fast-food joint. The worker gets the order wrong, and spills their drinks. They both get mad.

So, they sit and discuss life, and how it sucks. A change needs to happen. The next day, Bill goes on a rampage. It is Falling Down meets Grand Theft Auto. The first twenty-five minutes are a bit slow, but they help set up the remaining sixty minute climax. It is a holy terror rampage. My favorite scene is in the bingo parlor. The twist at the end that end that everyone seems to not see coming, was not that hard to work out. But, it was awesome.

I don’t usually write about movies that I did not see in theaters, but I felt this was necessary. I have Netflix, and Rampage was an Instant Watch. I am glad that it was. A friend of a friend turned me on to this movie. I was hesitant at first, but I figured, it was only 80 some minutes. How bad could it be? Verdict: A must see if you like this kind of film. It was not as gory as you would think or hope it would or should be. It was, also, more political than I would have thought. I am usually not into the whole "political movie," but this one has attitude.

Love & Other Drugs


Perscription: Boring, but Nudity


So, when I wasn’t crying at the end, I thought, Once again, I am heartless. But, I turned to my wife, who cries at Undercover Boss and Hallmark commercials, and she wasn’t crying either. That is when I knew I wasn’t emotionally broken, just bored.

Love and Other Drugs tried too hard. From Edward Zwick, the director of The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond and Glory, this was lifeless. I spent the car ride home trying to figure out where this movie went wrong. I found the following reasons.

Love & Other Drugs opens in 1996 with Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) is seen selling ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves, figuratively. He is smooth, suave, and says what the consumers need to hear to purchase whatever he is selling. After having relations with his boss’s girl, he is fired.

Next comes the most worthless scene in the entire film. For some reason, we are thrown into the middle of an argument/discussion about the medical industry in the Randall household. I am not sure what the point was supposed to be, but it failed. Apparently, Jamie has a brother, Josh, who did something on the internet instead of finishing med school. The patriarch is a doctor. He has a sister, who was a completely wasted character. She only appears in this waste of 5 minutes. She has no purpose. The matriarch just tells everyone to be good, or they get no chocolate cake. No joke. In the end, Josh says that he will make a call to his contact at Pfizer to see if he can get his brother a job as a drug rep.

Off to training, and a reminder of the mid-nineties. We see Jamie going through a bombardment of drug information. Finally, he is seen as fit to hit the streets of the Midwest, but not until after having relations with his trainer.

So, now we are introduced to Bruce Winston, a senior drug rep played by Oliver Platt. He tells of the promise land of Chicago. That is where the best of the best rep for Pfizer. We also meet Trey Hannigan, played by Gabriel Macht. He is the “evil” drug rep that has the ear of hank Azaria’s Dr. Stan. He stands in the way of Jamie and Bruce’s dream of Chicago. Lastly, we are humorously introduced to Anne Hathaway’s Maggie Murdock. In the trailer, she seems funny, witty, hot, and sex-addicted. In the movie, they give her an incurable disease, and she becomes annoying.

For the first hour of the movie, I was into it. It was fast paced and funny. The dialog was quick witted. The acting was decent enough. Then, right around the hour mark, the movie stalled. It slowed to a crawl. Then, it flat stopped and changed directions. The movie changed gears from the romantic comedy that it was to a melodrama. His brother, Josh, just won’t go away. He becomes too much and goes too far and flat out become a complete annoyance. He was supposed to be comedic relief, but just turned out to be a nuisance.

By the end, I did not care about the characters. The movie just dragged out for no reason. The confrontation with Trey never came to a head. The build-up to taking Chicago was a letdown. The whole movie became a letdown. When the lights came up, all the people around us were drying their eyes. I was trying not to groan. Verdict: Love and Other Drugs walks the fine line between being a movie and soft-core porn. Yet, somehow, what started off with such promise just sputtered out and finished bland. I would wait to rent this one if you feel you must see this movie.

Megamind


Mega-Better than Despicable Me


Not that it takes a lot to get me to go to the theater, but an animated superhero movie voiced by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, was an easy sell. As I was reading reviews and predictions for Megamind, I kept seeing the same comparison. Everyone was comparing it to Despicable Me, saying they have similar storylines of the bad guy turning into the good guy. I saw Despicable Me, and I thought it was decent, but nothing special. I, however, found Megamind much more entertaining and enjoyable. There were similarities, but there were more differences.

The story opens with the overdone ending first, middle of the action, how did-I-get-here beginning. I find this type of opening unoriginal, over used, and boring. Anyway, Megamind, voiced by Ferrell, himself narrates the opening. It is basically the story of Kal-El, or Superman for those “non-geeks” that might be reading this: planet is being destroyed; his parents put him in a shuttle and send him to Earth to save him. Along the way, another planet sends its last survivor to Earth. He becomes Metroman, voiced by Brad Pitt. Metroman lands in a rich family’s home, Megamind, a prison.

They have epic battles over the years. In a final battle, Megamind kidnaps TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi, voiced by Fey. Roxanne is seen as Metroman’s Lois Lane. Metroman comes to rescue her. With the help of Minion, voiced by David Cross, Megamind finally defeats Metroman.

Now, with no one to challenge him, Megamind does whatever he wants, whenever he wants. But this soon becomes tiresome for him. He and Roxanne both go to the memorial to Metroman to look for guidance. Before they run into eace other, Megamind assumes the identity of one of the workers at the memorial, Bernard.

After assuming Bernard’s appearance, Megamind starts a relationship with Roxanne, and they figure out that Megamind needs someone “good” to beat him or challenge him. So, Megamind finds a way to make a new superhero to battle his supervillian. Poor Hal, voiced by Jonah Hill, becomes Titan, or “Tighten” as he spells it. Megamind assumes another appearance, reminiscent of Brando’s Jor-El, to train Titan to be a superhero. As usual, Megamind’s plans do not quite go as planned.

This is as far as I am going to go with the plot. I loved the obvious twists. I loved the action. I loved the animation. If it weren’t for Toy Story 3, Megamind would be my pick as best animated movie for the year. But, Toy Story 3 owns that title, and I can’t see any animated movie topping that.

Verdict: If you haven’t seen it already, go. It is worth the time and money. I would recommend this to anyone who liked Despicable Me and The Incredibles. Oh, and listen for J.K. Simmons.

24 November 2010

127 Hours

Why I don't Rock Climb

After viewing the trailer for Danny Boyle’s follow up to his Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, I knew two things for certain. First, the shaky-cam will keep the wife out. Second, I want to see this, bad. So, off I went. When the opening credits start, my first thought was, this music is composed by A.R. Rahman, the Academy Award winning composer for Slumdog Millionaire. So, it seems pointless to say this, but I loved the music, for about 90% of the film. The other 10% seemed a little but too much Slumdog. This does not take place in India, but Utah.

127 Hours follows the true story of Aron Ralston’s struggle to survive after being pinned by a boulder while exploring the Blue John Canyon in Utah. The movie opens with Aron, played by James Franco, packing his gear for his weekend expedition. There is lot of emphasis on his water canteen, and the fact that he doesn’t take his Swiss Army knife.

He wakes up the next morning and begins his journey. Aron documents his adventure with is digital camera and his video camera. On his way to Blue John Canyon, he comes across two young ladies that are lost. They are simply named, Kristi and Megan, played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn. They enjoy themselves before going their separate ways. Shortly after, disaster strikes Aron.

Once he is trapped, Aron keeps his cool. Over the next 127 hours, he tries many ideas on how to free himself from his predicament. He rations his food and water. He uses his climbing ropes to keep himself warm. He documents his progression on his camera each day. He slowly starts to lose it. His mind wanders. He remembers his past. He hallucinates. He sees family, friends, and lovers. In the end, the inevitable solution becomes his last hope.

127 Hours is truly no more than Cast Away, only an hour shorter, no Wilson, and James Franco instead of Tom Hanks. But I loved it. I found Cast Away a bit boring. Nothing against Tom Hanks or Wilson, but I just thought it was too long.

Like Cast Away, 127 Hours rests solely on the shoulders of its main character. James Franco’s acting is superb. His facial acting carries this film a long way. I could see his first Oscar nomination for sure. Danny Boyle’s direction is top-notch, and what you would expect from him. Rahman’s music helped set the pace and the mood. The script could see a nod for adapted screenplay. It could easily see a Best Picture nomination. It was one of the best movies I have seen all year. I have seen about 40 movies that have come out in theaters this year. Not all in theaters, though. I would have to say 127 Hours would make my top five. No secret that Inception and The Town are my two favorites. I would also include Toy Story 3 and The Social Network with 127 Hours to round it out.

Verdict: If you are not squeamish, because “the scene” is very graphic, and can handle the shaky cam approach, you should definitely see this movie. I have read that over a dozen people have passed out while watching. I did not pass out, or even come close. But, I could see why some people would. It was, however, a great way to spend 90 minutes. Along the way, look for quick appearances by Treat Williams, Lizzy Caplan, and Clémence Poésy.

15 November 2010

The Social Network


Adam "Likes This" Movie


I was late to the party on this movie. I have been attending so many screenings, that I haven’t paid to see a movie since Takers. But, the wife wanted to go, and we had some Groupons that had to be used. We both wanted to see The Social Network. So, it seemed like a perfect fit; as did the movie. David Fincher, one of the best directors working. Aaron Sorkin, one of the best writers. And a cast of young up and coming actors including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara to help bring it all together. I thought it pertinent to mention Rooney Mara since she is in Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Social Network had high expectations for the studio. They thought it was going to make serious cash. I thought it would easily pass $100 million, but I did not think that it would break $200 million like some estimates. I just didn’t think that the people who used Facebook could get off of it long enough to go watch a movie about its creation. Yet, with a modest budget, it turned a profit easily; even if it isn’t as big as some had hoped.

The Social Network opens with a conversation between Mark Zuckerberg, brilliantly played by Eisenberg, having a heart to heart awkward conversation with his girlfriend Erica, played by Mara. Erica breaks up with Mark, and he goes back to his apartment/dorm on the Harvard campus and, in a drunken state, creates Facemash with the help of his later business partner, Eduardo Saverin , played by Garfield. It compares the women on the Harvard campus against each other based on hotness. After a run in with the campus board for invasion of privacy, he meets the Winklevoos twins who have an idea for a website called Harvard Connection. The idea is basically Facebook, but exclusive to Harvard.

We were then introduced to the fact that Zuckerberg was being sued by the Winklevoos’, or Winklevi as Zuckerberg refers to them, and his friend Garfield, simultaneously. In a series of flashbacks and depositions, the story of the creation and explosion of Facebook was told. It felt fresh. I am not usually a fan of the flashback, but what made this work was the fact that they did not feel like flashbacks. I give the credit there to Aaron Sorkin’s amazing screenplay and Fincher’s superb direction. The rest of the movie follows the creation and turmoil of Facebook. Justin Timberlake appears as Sean Parker, the creator of Napster. I had no idea that he had anything to do with Facebook.

Watching The Social Network reminded me of my college days. I remember when all this went down. Of course, at the time, we did not know about the controversy in its creation. I forgot that it was originally called, TheFacebook. I remember when Purdue was added, and it went through our campus like wildfire. I remember that my wife had to wait for her school, Butler University, to be added. Go Big Ten!

In the end, the movie was a very fast paced, well acted, two hours. I loved this movie. I would put it third best movie of the year. I would love to see Fincher get nominated for direction and Sorkin for writing. I would just like to see them both lose to Christopher Nolan. It would be great to see Jesse Eisenberg pick up a nomination for his acting. Without him, this movie could have failed. He really carried it well. Verdict: If it is still in theaters by you, see it. Stop playing Mafia Wars and Farmville. Stop “like this” clicking. Go out and see this movie.

12 November 2010

Unstoppable



LIARS!!

If it is called Unstoppable, I expect a tremendous crash. Okay, I had to get that out of my system. When it comes to either of the Scott brothers, you have to take into account many variables. Which one? Ridley? Tony? Then, you have to look at who they have in it. Denzel? Crowe? Look into the track record with that combination. Finally, you have to look at the running time. 90? 120? 150? Are you making a flow chart? You should be. This is Tony with Denzel in their fifth movie together at 96 minutes. I love the 90 minute zone. By the time you realize that the movie is bad, it’s over.

During the opening credits, I noticed a lot of familiar names. Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan and T.J. Miller. After the opening credits, the tension and action start, and it doesn’t let up. After a series of human errors, train 7-7-7 gets away and begins its journey.

The characters are simple. Old, soon to retire, experienced, hardened veteran engineer. New, school taught, rookie conductor. Smart government guy that is hated, but right. Mean, stupid, worried about money corporate guy. Smarter than corporate boss manager. There is nothing new in this film. But, unlike many of Tony Scott’s more recent movies, this was paced great, and a real joy to watch.

Unstoppable was a great popcorn-flick with plenty of action, but low on brains. I couldn’t stand how stupid people were portrayed. They talk about how explosive the phenol is in the cars, and the casualties it would cause. So, everyone comes right up to the track to take videos and pictures. Why wouldn’t a Hazmat crew keep them at a safe distance? Why wouldn’t people want to be at a safe distance? At one point, the plan is to derail the train. Everyone is waiting on the side to watch the derailment. Ridiculous. The plot holes are large enough to drive the runaway train through. Maybe that was the point? One thing that did get annoying was all the news reporter voiceovers. They narrated the story way too much.

So, the one thing I had a beef with was the budget. I have read that it could be as high as $100 million dollars. That is nuts. When was the last time Denzel had a movie make more than that? American Gangster (2007). Before that? Remember the Titans (2000). Before that? The Pelican Brief (1993). He is just not as big of a draw as people think he is. How about Tony Scott? His only movies to break the nine figure mark are Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Enemy of the State. I just don’t understand Hollywood. There was no reason for this movie to cost that much. Most of it is spent in a railway control room with Rosario and the engine 1206 with Denzel and Chris Pine. The exterior shots were just a train shooting by. If Hollywood has this much money to blow on a movie, I have a script I would love for them to read.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was a nonstop action adventure. I have to admit, I dug a little into the actual story that this was based on. It was far less dramatic. But, that is Hollywood. Verdict: See this over the atrocity that is Skyline. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, pardon the pun.

Real Story

Skyline



Great Movie, or Greatest Movie Ever?

As sure as I sit here writing this, this was a direct quote from a guy in front of me as I walked out of the theater after viewing Skyline. I looked at my friend that had the displeasure of accompanying me to this atrocity. We both tried not to laugh.

Skyline was the worst movie I have ever seen in theaters. And that is saying a lot. I would rather sit and watch Sy-Fy Network movies than sit through this dribble again. There is nothing redeeming about this movie. The least glib thing would be the special effects achieved for such a low budget. The budget is estimated below $20 million. Some sources say even as low as $10 million. I can tell you right now, none of that budget was spent on actors, writers or directors. The only full length movie The Brothers Strause had directed before this was Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. On a plus, they directed a Nickelback music video.

Skyline had a feel like it was conceived over heavy pot smoking. It was all disjointed, and it kept ripping off of one movie, then another, then another, then yet another. The tone was another conundrum. The actors and directors took it very seriously. But the audience, well, we laughed at it. I almost cried I was laughing so hard at the crown laughing. The lines of dialog were bad, but delivered even worse. This made matter worse.

Skyline started off ripping off Independence Day, my personal favorite alien invasion movie. Then it moved to Cloverfield. After that, it was off to The Matrix. It ended with a Matrix-meets-Transformers finale.

I cannot devote more time to this waste of time. I had free tickets to the St. Louis screening last night at 11:00 pm. I should have just gone home and went to bed. Verdict: Terrible. According to IMDB, there are two sequels planned. Let’s do our part to stop that. Do not watch this movie. It has such a low budget, that it could easily make a strong profit. So, I did not pay to see this, neither should you.

02 November 2010

Due Date



Like an Ultrasound, We Already Knew
Due Date has expectations that cannot be met.  I try to keep my expectations in check, but sometimes it is just plain too hard to accomplish.  I went into this movie expecting it to surpass The Hangover.  The trailer was hilarious.  The director, writer, producer and one “star” from The Hangover are involved.  They added Robert Downey, Jr. who is box office gold right now.  There was just too much going for this.  It might have survived better if all the funny parts were not in the trailer.  There was only one gut-busting scene not in the trailer, and, boy, was it hilarious.  I almost cried.  I won’t give it away.

The trailer also gave away a few of the cameos that would have been better to not know about.  I just really hated the fact that the trailers ruined most of what would have been hilarious.  Anyway, the movie itself…

Don’t get me wrong.  Due Date is hilarious, just not as hilarious as it should have and could have been.  It opens with a monologue that seems odd, but it works.  Robert Downey plays Peter Highman, no joke - that is the character name, who is simply trying to get home to Los Angeles to be with his wife, Michelle Monaghan, when she gives birth to their first child.  He runs across Zach Galifianakis’s Ethan Tremblay.  He is going to Hollywood to be an actor.  Ethan really is no different than Galifianakis’s Alan from The Hangover which is too bad.  I am afraid that he is going to not only get typecast, but also that he is going to get over exposed.

After our two protagonists cross paths, they are forever intertwined.  Peter is put on the “No-Fly” list, and is forced to travel with the bane of his existence, Ethan from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  Along the road trip, both characters are expertly rounded out.  I love good character development, and Due Date was full of it.  With only two main characters, the writers were able to really make those characters come to life.  Both actors excelled in their roles.  As they make their trek across the south, obstacles threaten to keep Peter from the birth of his child.  These obstacles are people, situations, environmental and anything else you can think of.  I don’t want to rehash the trailer, you can watch it above.

I did enjoy Due Date, but is pales in comparison to The Godfather of road-trip films, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.    There are times in Due Date that scream Planes, Trains & Automobiles that it actually detracts from the viewing experience.  I was also hoping for it to go beyond The Hangover, but it did not.  My thoughts keep coming back to the fact that the trailer was too good, and too exposing.  But, that one scene not in the trailer still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.  It is funny and entertaining, just not groundbreaking or good.

RATING: 4/10